Tropicana Field - It's no Safeco

Im in Tampa for a few weeks for a Journalism Teacher's conference and I attended tonight's D-Rays/Orioles game...

I know the history of Tampa Baseball and I was not expecting a lot going to the game tonight.  I know that they arent good.  I know that they do not get a lot of fans.  I know their stadium sucks and once I walked into the stadium, I thought twice about what I thought before.

I am totally impressed with some of the things that the Tropicana field and the D-Rays do to attract fans.  First off, they have FREE Parking.  Yes you heard me right, FREE.  Granted, they barely reach 18,000 every night, but wow, what a nice gesture to get fans to the game.  The boardwalk outside the stadium has a good amount of artwork (non baseball related) and the stadium itself isnt really much to look at.  It really reminds me of an NBA arena more than like the Kingdome.
You can literally walk up and get tickets anywhere in the stadium and if you wait until the game starts (which we didnt), and you have a AAA Membership, you get your ticket half price.  We paid $21 a ticket and sat in the upper first deck (typically about a 38-50 seat in Safeco)
As we walked in, the first 15,000 people got Scott Kazmir statues.  Reminded me of the Edgar/Junior/Buhner statues they gave out last  year, but nicer.  They also had hats for people in the expensive seats, and about 5 other promotions that night.  The guy I was with said they typically run 2 - 3 promotions a night just to draw fans.  So they'll hand out something to the first X amount of fans, first X amount of women and the first X amount of kids.  All in one night!
We walked in the centerfield enterance and headed straight for the gift shop.  It was nice.  Not anywhere as big as what you find in Seattle, but I found the few items that I needed and proceeded out toward my seat.  As I walk down the corridor, I notice that the stadium is CLEAN.  It felt like walking in a mall.  There was NOTHING on the floor and honestly when we left, it was stil clean.  
In the outfield area, they have a little museum area with a tribute to both Wade Boggs and Ted Williams.  They have a lifesized statute of Williams - Very neat.  (Even had a Japanese baseball area with a little statue of Ichiro).  We continued walking and they have stations where kids can personalize their own bat, create their own baseball card, throw speed pitches, hit tennis balls, play fantasy sportscaster, etc.  Very fan friendly.
Got to our seats and realized how close we really were.  The stadium itself is TINY.  I couldnt believe how small the seating area was.  I see it on TV all the time and you just dont realize until you get there.  
Had a hot dog, pop and sunflower seeds and paid $12, not bad.  Plus, all their drinks come in nice plastic souvenier cups. (even the beer).  I also paid $8 for a Devil Rays Red Beer, so I guess alcohol is just as expensive as Safeco.  What I was suprised with was that they serve hard alcohol out in the stadium.  I have never been in the mood for something in Safeco, so I really dont know if they have hard alcohol there, but I came damn close to getting a Long Island (they only served them in doubles and I didnt care to spend $15 for a drink).
We moved into the outfield in the fourth inning to get a different viewpoint and honestly, it is a decent place to watch a game.  You really feel close to the game.

Some notes from the game:

  • Russ Ortiz started for the sick (food poisoning)Erik Bedard (was disappointed because I wanted to watch him)  Ortiz sucks and will be out of baseball very soon.
  • Carl Crawford is awesome and if Bavasi can find ANYWAY to get him, it would make me VERY happy.  I knew he was good, but it just reiterates the fact in person.  
  • I think if the Mariners played all their home games there, Sexson and Beltre would already each have 30 home runs.
  • Anyhow, if I lived in Tampa, I might consider being a season ticket holder.  Very reasonalbly priced, a cozy stadium, free parking, and decent food and beer.  Its just too bad they have a SHITTY team!
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